Women's History Month - Elizabeth Blackwell

The first woman to receive a medical degree in the US.

Queen Ranavalona III of Madagascar

The last Ruler of Madagascar.

She's Crafty - Microscopic Edition!

Some really cool science inspired crafts!

Happy Birthday - Septima Poinsette Clark

The "Queen Mother" or "Grandmother of the American Civil Rights Movement."

Friday, July 24, 2015

Self-Rescuing Princess of the Week: Gaby Zane

It's pretty scary going in for an operation. But now, thanks to an inquisitive fifth grader, kids will be able to take their favorite stuffed animals with them for a little extra comfort and security.

When Gaby Zane had an idea for her fifth grade science fair project, she had no idea she'd wind up having her results published in a medical journal. But that's exactly what's happened!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Louise Blanchard Bethune - feminist and first female architect

Louise Blanchard Bethune (July 21, 1856 – December 18, 1913)

If you haven't heard of Louise Bethune before, don't be too ashamed. While she was a remarkable woman during her time, her story has been all but lost to history. Fortunately, folks like Kelly Hayes McAlonie are working to change that.

Here are a few basics facts about her life and her work that everyone should know:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Movie Night - Advantageous: The choices we make

So, yesterday, I read this interview with Jennifer Phang director of Advantageous, and immediately added it to my Netflix queue, and set aside my evening plans to watch it.

I have soooooo many thoughts about this film. It is not an easy film to watch, by any means. But it is beautiful and thought-provoking. After watching it, I started it again, re-watching the many different scenes that touched me, often sitting in my chair with it paused trying to sort out my thoughts. Most of which were about how this movie set in the future felt like an indictment of our present. My high school English teacher Mrs. Knorr always told us "there is more truth in fiction." She was right.

At its most basic level, this film is about choices. In nearly every scene we see someone making a choice of one kind of another. The little choices we make on a daily basis and those that set the course of our lives, and the lives of others.

In this future, as it is in our own present, it is how one goes about making these choices that defines their character. But as it is in our time, this is more an illusion of choice than anything else. Available options are often limited and far outside one's ability to influence. And in many cases, the only choice is no choice at all, with the only options to either accept something terrible or suffer the consequences. While it is true our choices may define us, it is our options that set the parameters of our lives.

The set up for this film is like a mash-up of the worst parts of both Brazil and The Handmaid's Tale. We have an overpopulated future where the elite are painfully oblivious to the suffering of the general public, carrying on with their luncheons and school events and reaffirming their role as the privileged class, while resistance fighters attack public targets, and a religiously motivated social movement directs the fate of women as a kind of backlash for the gains they'd made in the previous century.

This future is a society where there are few jobs to be had, where a woman's appearance is key to her success, and where youth is her main selling point. Once she reaches a certain age, 40 let's say, she is no longer employable. A world where a woman would act in a way that is against her best interest simply to have a place to exist. And where, once that place is threatened, she would willingly sacrifice anything and everything she has to ensure a place for her daughter. A world where a secure life is limited to the elite, and one does whatever is advantageous to ensure success.

Early in the film we see three girls walking home from school, playing a guessing game. At one point, one girl turns to another and says, "Only one of you can be the winner. If you cheat, then nobody wins." This professed need for fairness is in contrast to the world surrounding them where nothing is, in fact, fair. News reports in the background give us details about this seemingly quiet and clean world -- unemployment is rampant and terrorist attacks are a regular occurrence.

Those who tend to benefit from advantages tend to see their placement in society as what is fair. We see it time and again in discussions around privilege -- those who benefit from it often don't see it. They are convinced that everyone is faced with the same options, and instead believe they have simply achieved more because they made better choices. Or, even worse, they know very well the privilege they carry, and choose to use it to promote their own well being at the expense of others.

In this world we meet single mother Gwen and her daughter Jules. Gwen works as the spokeswoman for the benign-sounding Center for Advanced Health and Living. As part of her job she writes eloquent statements to sell her company's products. And much like in our own world, the marketers of this world use the lingo of the oppressed for their own purposes.
"In fact, the decisions we make in life define us. So shouldn't every woman be defined by the totality of her choices, rather than her race, height, or health. These are things she often cannot control. Here at the Center for Advanced Health and Living, we are working to offer you the safest alternatives to invasive cosmetic surgery so you'll have every chance to be the you you were meant to be."
I wonder, when Gwen wrote and then delivered that line, whether she had any kind of inkling how it would eventually impact her own life? How could she have known it would turn around, all twisted and gnarled, to cut her down once it was too late to change her decision? Which, of course, we quickly learn wasn't much of a choice. She's been caught in a trap; led to this point by the machinations of others. Can we judge a raccoon's decision to gnaw off its own leg to save itself? Or, in this case, a mother making the ultimate sacrifice for her daughter?
"This is the only time in your daughter's life where her choices will make a difference."
Tragically, this is truer than anyone would want. And by "her" choices, they mean her family's choices; her mother's. A mother's love and support alone are not enough to make it in this world. "Access costs money." And without access, there is no healthy future. In a world where only the elite can any kind of life worth living, people will give up their very lives to ensure their children become one of them, and those in power will be able to use that to their advantage.
"I have to position Jules now. If I can get her into a good school, she'll have a chance. I can't let her become one of those women, so desperate that they would do anything."

But just as much as this is a movie about the choices a mother will make to protect her daughter, it's also a movie about her decision to become a mother in the first place. Gwen, and Jules, have been living with the fallout from Gwen's choices prior to motherhood. We do not know exactly why she has broken from her parents, but she is adamant that her father will never meet Jules, just as she is adamant that Jules' father will never be a part of their lives. She has been estranged from her "one and only cousin" Lily's life since Jules' birth, which, as we learn later, has been Gwen's decision in order to protect her from a mistake Gwen made when they were younger.

The decision to live as a single mother in this world was a dangerous one, she knew, but she also hoped it would give her life meaning; make it worthwhile. And, in its own way, her ultimate decision simply confirms that. It is her undying love for her daughter that drives everything she does. She cannot change the very system they are both trapped in. So she works within her constraints to give her daughter the very best chance. And then, she goes one step further and gives her something authentic to hold on to as she makes her way in this world.
"Listen to me. It's good to be humble, but you need to know your value. The ideas, the wisdom, and the kindness in you. That's the secret beauty everyone wants."
And this is what I find so beautiful, so touching in this film. Despite the hardship and loneliness and this terrible choice she is forced to make, she does it all with the purest of motivations: love.

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Another Double Hitter: Movie Review & Shout-out
I would have loved to have known about Doris Sams and the other professional womens baseball players when I was a girl! No telling how I would have used that info. I wasn't especially athletically inclined, but it certainly would have been inspirational anyway. I'm sure I would have devoured biographies about women ball players if I had found any, the same way I read through every book I could find on Amelia Earhart.

In case you need a reminder... you are amazing!
I just love this poem. I revisit it whenever I'm feeling a down or frustrated or a little powerless. You are amazing. As.you.are. Stronger than you know. More beautiful than you think. Worthier than you believe. More loved that you can ever imagine. Passionate about making a difference. Fiery when protecting those you love. Learning. Growing. Not alone. ...

Movie Night - The Iron Lady
My more careful thoughts about the movie are a bit more complicated. It's not that I didn't enjoy the movie. I did. I liked the story. I liked the mixing of modern times in with history, and the mix of political with personal. I liked seeing the whole life of such a strong woman who influenced history. We see her as young woman starting out with passion and verve...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Music Break - Ana Tijoux

You know that feeling when you find a song that could easily become your new anthem? Yeah. That's how I feel about "Antipatriarca" by Ana Tijoux.

With only three college semesters of study, my Spanish is pretty limited, but I can still tell this is a song about kick ass women demanding respect. And the fantastic video drives that point home.

The lyrics I keep catching my heart on:
No sumisa ni obediente (Not submissive nor obedient)
mujer fuerte insurgente (Strong rebel woman)
independiente y valiente (Independent and brave)
romper las cadenas de lo indiferente (Breaking the chains of indifference)
no pasiva ni oprimida (Not passive nor oppressed)
mujer linda que das vida (Beautiful woman, you give life)
emancipada en autonomía (Emancipated in autonomy)
antipatriarca y alegría (Antipatriarch and happiness)
(lyrics source and English translation: lyricstranslate.com)


Yo puedo ser tu hermana tu hija, Tamara Pamela o Valentina
Yo puedo ser tu gran amiga incluso tu compañera de vida
Yo puedo ser tu aliada la que aconseja y la que apaña
Yo puedo ser cualquiera de todas depende de como tu me apodas
Pero no voy a ser la que obedece porque mi cuerpo me pertenece
yo decido de mi tiempo como quiero y donde quiero
Independiente yo nací, independiente decidí
Yo no camino detrás de ti, yo camino de la par aquí
Tu no me vas a humillar, tu no me vas a gritar
Tu no me vas someter tu no me vas a golpear
Tu no me vas denigrar, tu no me vas obligar
Tu no me vas a silenciar tu no me vas a callar
No sumisa ni obediente
mujer fuerte insurgente
independiente y valiente
romper las cadenas de lo indiferente
no pasiva ni oprimida
mujer linda que das vida
emancipada en autonomía
antipatriarca y alegría
A liberar....
Yo puedo ser jefa de hogar, empleada o intelectual
Yo puedo ser protagonista de nuestra historia y la que agita
La gente la comunidad, la que despierta la vecindad
La que organiza la economía de su casa de su familia
Mujer linda se pone de pie
Y a romper las cadenas de la piel
No sumisa ni obediente
mujer fuerte insurgente
independiente y valiente
romper las cadenas de lo indiferente
no pasiva ni oprimida
mujer linda que das vida
emancipada en autonomía
antipatriarca y alegría
A liberar....

Friday, June 19, 2015

Women Celebrating Juneteenth

Every year around Juneteenth, I see this photo getting shared on Pinterest and elsewhere on the web. I've long wondered who these women in the buggy were and what was their story.

I was quickly able to find other sources for this image, each with a similar caption:
Martha and Pinkie Yates in a buggy decorated for the annual Juneteenth celebration in front 319 Robin St. in the Fourth Ward (c.1895-1905). Courtesy of Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library.

Buggy driven by Martha Yates Jones and Pinky Yates decorated for 1908 Juneteenth parade, MSS 0281-037, Rev. Jack Yates Family and Antioch Baptist Church Collection.
There was also this very similar image, showing these two same women in their beautiful white dresses and the same decorated buggy, this time in front of a brick building, with this caption:
Martha Yates Jones & Pinkie Yates at Antioch Baptist Church in a buggy decorated for the annual Juneteenth celebration (c. 1895- 1905). Courtesy of Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library.
So, who were Martha Yates Jones and Pinkie Yates? How did they live? What did the do? Were they related, as their shared name implies?

The next step in my research was to do searches for both of their names, Rev. Jack Yates, the address 319 Robin Street in the Fourth Ward, and for the Antioch Baptist Church.

Some of these searches came up with very little, and some gave me quite a bit of information about the place and people around these women, but not much about either of them directly.

Rev. Jack Yates was an influential pastor who founded the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, in 1866. He was born a slave, on July 11, 1828 in Gloucester County, Virginia. He was married to Harriet Wilson, a slave on a neighboring plantation. His owners were relatively enlightened, in that they taught him how to read and write and enabled him to learn carpentry. And, when Harriet's owners sold her to a farmer in Texas, his owners gave him permission to join them.

After emancipation he moved his family to Houston where it took little time for him to establish himself as a hard worker with the determination to create a better world for his community. He worked as a drayman during the day and a Baptist preacher at night and on Sundays.

Realizing the importance of a permanent structure and land ownership, he set about purchasing property for his family. By 1869, not even five years after emancipation, he was a homeowner. He also quickly set a goal of building a new church on church-owned land. On May 15, 1875, the cornerstone for the new church was laid. And in 1872, with his guidance and through a collaoration between Antioch Missionary Baptist Church and Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, Emancipation Park was purchased for use by the African American community.

Yates was determined to use this new platform to achieve his goals, creating a church that would serve the community in more than simply a spiritual manner. As more African American men and women moved to Houston, they gravitated toward the Antioch Baptist Church, where at his Baptist Academy, they learned fundamentals skills like reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as important trades. The Baptist Academy became Houston College, which was the forerunner of Texas Southern University.

No was his idea of education limited to boys or men. Women attended the Baptist Academy, and each of his daughters, as well as his sons, were given the opportunity to attend college, with the expectation that they would, in turn, do something worthwhile with their education.
Sallie was among the first women from this part of the state to enter Bishop College in Marshall, Texas; Rutherford also attended Bishop College; Pinkie and Nannie graduated from Spelman Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia; and Nannie also attended Bishop. Pinkie taught school all her life, in Washington, D. C., as well as in Houston and other areas of Texas. Nannie taught for a time and later served as housemother at Prairie View A & M and the Houston Negro College of Nursing. Rutherford and his brother, Paul, operated a successful printing business in Houston.
(source: Yates House History)
So... Martha Yates Jones and Pinkie Yates were sisters, both daughters of Jack Yates and his first wife Harriet Wilson. Small wonder they would be so dressed up for Juneteenth celebrations, being the children of parents who had been slaves and had witnessed Emancipation in Texas first hand.

Interestingly, this is one of the first times during my research that I was able to find any information about Pinkie or Martha, the two women who started this dive into the the Internet. Well, about Pinkie, at least. As for Martha, the only information I have been able to find is the information associated with her death certificate and grave record, which indicates that she was born September 3, 1868, in Glocester County, Virginia. That information does not match up with the information about her parents' whereabouts during that time (already established in Houston), and is likely inaccurate as to birth place. If the date is accurate, that would have made her 39 years old when this photo was taken in 1908, which could be the case.

It also jibes with the note included in her grave record.
"Endeared herself to the builders of the new Antioch church by cooking for the bricklayers, carpenters, and laborers during its construction."
(source: Find A Grave)
The church was built between 1875 and 1879, and she would have been a young girl between 8 and 13 years old, which would have been her act of service during the construction of her father's church. Sadly, I have not been able to locate much more about her through internet searches. I'm hoping that some of the books I've ordered through inter-library loan may have some more information.

Fortunately, more of Pinkie Yates' life has been recorded. Born March 26, 1884, she would have been 24 years old when the Juneteenth photo was taken. After graduating from Spellman Seminary, she spent her life as a teacher, carrying on her father's mission to build up the African American community in Houston through education.
Young black women had a more difficult time getting an education. We had a colored high school here, but there were people like Reverend Jack Yates who wanted his children to have more education than that. He had a daughter named Pinky Yates that you see here. He sent her to Spellman in Atlanta where she got the equivalent of her high school education. And this shows her with her class that she was teaching at Colored High School. But an interesting thing which says, again, how much women yearned for education—over the next 30 years, Pinky Yates went to Prairie View A&M and finally got her college diploma after that long period of time. But these were women who were very involved.
(source: The Heritage Society)
Houston schoolteacher, Pinkie Yates, the daughter of freedman and community agent Rev. Jack Yates, played a pivotal role in the art of community agency at the opening of the twentieth century. This photograph of Ms. Yates holding a book, exemplifies her lifelong pledge to Black educational empowerment.
(source: Houston History Magazine)
As a teacher, she joined the ranks of amazing African American women educators like Mary McLeod Bethune, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and so many others. Undoubtedly her influence on the community was enormous. I am happy I was able to find some pretty good information about her via the internet, but I am still unsatisfied. I have requested a few historical books from the library, so there is some hope that I may be able to learn more.

Also, the history nerd in me totally geeked out over this Masters thesis by Amy Lynn Stell, M.A., Integrating African American House Types into Historic Villages: Three Historic Texas Houses and Their Respective Museums. She has done quite a bit of research on the Yates Family House (pictured above), and that, in turn, gives us a peek into the Yates family itself. Not a huge look, of course, but still, it's an interesting perspective.

If you like the work I do here at Self-Rescuing Princess Society, please check out my Patreon campaign.

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SRPS Shout-Out - Althea Gibson
"Shaking hands with the Queen of England was a long way from being forced to sit in the colored section of the bus going into downtown Wilmington, North Carolina." "I want the public to remember me as they knew me: athletic, smart, and healthy.... Remember me strong and tough and quick, fleet of foot and tenacious."
Josephine Groves Holloway - A True Girl Scout
One such devoted Girl Scout leader was Josephine Groves Holloway. In 1923, Josephine, the daughter of a Methodist minister and a recent graduate from Fisk University with a degree in sociology, was working as a social worker for the Bethlehem Center in Nashville, Tennessee, a Methodist-run family resource center serving the black community.

WHM - María Rebecca Latigo de Hernández
In 1932 María became San Antonio's first Mexican female radio announcer, and in 1934, she spoke on the "Voz de las Americas" program to promote Council 16 of the League of United Latin American Citizens, organized to promote equality for Mexican Americans in all spheres of life. She was the only female speaker at the first meeting in 1934.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Music Break - Grace Potter

This came up on Spotify and I instantly fell in love with the grinding guitar and the kickass lyrics. Seriously, these three lines right here sold me on this song:
They told me to keep it quiet
Said my day would never come
So I screamed my lungs out and I ran straight for the sun."

I don't know much about Grace Potter, but you can be sure I'll be checking her out over the next couple of days.
Look What We've Become

They told you to keep your head down
They told you not to run
They told you "we're sorry, you're not the fortunate one"
They told me to keep it quiet
Said my day would never come
So I screamed my lungs out and I ran straight for the sun

And they always told us we would be nothing
Look what we've done (look what we've done)
And they always told us we would be nothing
But look what we've become (look what we've become)

And they told you you don't understand
They told you, "let it go"
And then they took you by the hand
And led you out the door
Your words don't make a sound
My dreams are on the floor
But you're rising up from underground
And I'm nothing like I was before

And they always told us we would be nothing
But look what we've done (look what we've done)
And they always told us we would be nothing
Now look what we've become (look what we've become)

They say it's over now
The world is over you
They told me "no regrets"
There's nothing you can do
But I won't fade to black
On the walk that will be damned
I'll wear my heart like a flag and run
Straight for the sun

Always told us we would be nothing
And they always told us we would be nothing

Told us "keep your heads down"
They told us not to run
They told us "we're sorry, you're not the chosen ones"
They told us to keep it quiet
And said our day would never come
So we screamed our bloody lungs out and ran straight for the sun

And they always told us we would be nothing
And look what we've done (look what we've done)
And they always told us we would be nothing
But look what we've become (look what we've become)

Look what we've become